South Africa celebrates entrepreneurial innovations

On Wednesday evening 25 May, WWF South Africa celebrated three entrepreneurs for their innovative ventures that address carbon emission reductions and access to energy using clean technologies.

The awards ceremony was preceded by an interactive and robust panel discussion on Bridging the gap: The role of Enablers in South Africa featuring industry thought leaders. Gerswynn McKuur (Technology Innovation Agency, TIA); Albert Botha (Ashburton Investments); Mike Mulcahy (GreenCape); Tanner Methvin (Impact Amplifier); Helmut Hertzog (South Africa Renewable Energy Business Incubator, SAREBI) and Brandon Paschal (Launchlab, University of Stellenbosch) shared their experiences and thoughts on scaling innovation in South Africa. This included the need to cut red tape, break down silos, corporates needing to improve in becoming first adopters as well as the need to work together to help small climate entrepreneurs scale and find investors.

The three Climate Solvers are Heliolab, a revolutionary heliostat concentrated solar power collector system, Futran, an autonomous haulage test system and Miser, a hydraulic hybrid transition.

The story of Heliolab is the story of a team (above) of highly capable individuals from diverse engineering backgrounds brought together by their combined interest in solar thermal energy through the Stellenbosch Thermal Energy Research Group.Heliolab plonkable, low cost, small scale, flexible, scalable heliostat system enhances the benefits of concentrated solar power (CSP). It does this by removing the hurdles typically faced by this power source such as inflexibility and large scale requirements along with requiring significant site preparation and civil works, and having a definite limit to cost reduction potential. In addition, it has a smart control system that dynamically compensates for reduced precision. The objective of Helio100 as a technology demonstrator has certainly been met with a radical departure from traditional CSP design approaches to allow significant cost reduction for a small scale Heliostat system. The team has in consultation with a number of industry participants including its technology partners concluded that the next project will be aroughly 800m2 concentrator system to deliver heat and/or power to an industry client via a proper off-take agreement. The Helio800 project will be kicking off in June 2016 and completed in 12-18 months.

As a Fractional Rapid Transit (FRT) system, the Futran system is designed to transport a range of pod types to take loads as light as a few hundred kilograms and as heavy as 20 tonnes using the same track type and the same motorised units. The flexibility and scalability of the system is unique and enables it to address a range of needs in a variety of conditions. The system uses a light weight, super strong, elevated track network, and can be deployed on road and railway reserves, over obstacles and sensitive areas such as wetlands and rivers. It is high enough to enable animal and people migrations, and small enough not to be visually disturbing.When compared to trucks at a mine, the Futran System saves cost by up to 50% and reduces CO2 emissions by 70% or more.The first Futran public transportation systems will be deployed over the next two to three years, with long distance haulage systems deployed within three to four years. Cross-continental long distance haulage lines will be deployed across Africa in the longer term. Milotek (Pty) Ltd, creators of the Futran public transportation system is owned by Imperial Holdings, Andries Louw and Minorities.

MISER technology is a hydraulic hybrid transmission system designed for all vehicles to recover and store the kinetic energy typically lost while braking. The energy is then sent back to the wheels at the optimum time so that you can drive from the hydraulic system, rather than the engine. With an estimated 300 million freight vehicles on the road worldwide causing significant carbon emissions, retrofitting this technology offers significant future carbon emission reductions. Ducere Holdings (Pty) Ltd was established in March 2004, although the idea and preliminary work on the MISER concept started long before that. The company is based in Johannesburg, South Africa but many resources are contracted from outside of the country. MISER plans to have the first two fitment centres for MISER Retrofit in South Africa operational nine months after starting on the next phase being the first production cycle. The plan is to then follow that up by introducing two more a month for the next four months. Once these ten fitment centres are online, operational and profitable, will we further investigate the potential of adding more fitment centres.

Speaking at the award ceremony, Evan Rice, Business Development Manager of TESLA SA, encouraged all climate innovators to understand the problem they are trying to solve, to figure at the scale at which they need to have impact and to partner with the right people.

Louise Scholtz, WWF South Africa manager of the Climate Solver programme: “WWF is proud to honour three winners that demonstrate the depth of technical ability and innovation in South Africa.  The technologies offer cutting edge solutions to addressing the pressing issue of carbon emission reductions in South Africa and beyond, and Heliostat, in addition, also addresses access to clean energy that emits zero carbon”.

Thanks also to Swedish Postcode Lottery and Dustin for making this years Climate Solver South Africa possible. 

Blog written by Louise Scholtz, WWF in South Africa  

(Louise with Climate Solver Partners in top left image below. Recording by Saliem Fakir, WWF South Africa top right. Morne Du Plessis, WWF South Africa bottom left. The ceremony was followed by a mingle bottom right)